Is your dental practice being threatened by the DSO model?


As a dentist operating your own private practice it’s easy to understand why you might feel threatened by the looming growth of group practices or DSOs. 

Let’s face it, many dentists are joining DSOs for financial reasons and one of the core reasons is personal debt. School loans and mortgages along with the day-to-day cost of living have left some dentists with little choice other than to ride the DSO wave.

DSOs have buying power along with that franchised brand which creates an easily duplicable model. In the world of operating a private practice, things can be choppy and unpredictable but in the world of the DSO dentist, their days are predictable and their schedules full.

So should the independent practicing dentist start to wave the white flag and jump on the bandwagon, or is there still hope for the private practitioner?

In marketing I like to refer to this as outside in rather than inside out. The DSO model looks at the practice from the inside out. How can we cut costs, how can we leverage our buying power, how can we optimize each dentist to the utmost?  

But the private practice should be looking at things just the opposite. Not that running a cost-effective practice isn’t important, but if you make it paramount it will have a negative impact on your staff and patients.  

Instead private practices are afforded the opportunity to provide a truly personalized experience. Their waiting rooms are not limited to the confines of a duplicatable franchised look. Rather they should be representative of the community and pay extra attention to providing the most soothing and convenient pre-visit experience. As for me, I always love a big fish tank, it makes me relax and distracts me. In the DSO waiting room they’re likely to have a simulated fish task playing on the big screen. It’s just not the same.

As I wrote this article one of my goals is to express to the private practitioner that’s feeling the pressure is to focus on the personalization at every level. Personalization is your differentiator and you must leverage it as much as you can. When the DSO sends out an eBlast to patients, have your office team text and call, make it personal.  

Dedicate an area of your waiting room to patient success stories and it doesn’t have to be limited to smiles. Sports Achievements; Educational Awards; Community Service Events, all paint a picture that your practice is a vital part of the community and not just some cookie cutter tooth factory.

Engage your entire staff, not just your office manager to contribute ideas how to improve the overall patient experience by personalizing at every level. Reward staff for ideas that have an impact and resonate with patients. Make the trip to the dentist a fun and “familiar” thing.

Sometimes you can’t do it alone. It’s not considered failure if you feel the need to reach out for some practice coaching. If you sense that you need help, I suggest scheduling one or two consultations with one of the practice management gurus that have a proven track record of demonstrable success. They usually deploy tactics that they have vetted and tested throughout other practices therefore they ultimately create a practice success formula.

One such practice management coach is Gary Kadi. I had the pleasure of meeting Gary during the very early days of his career, just as he launched the Million Dollar Dentist. It’s been fascinating to watch Gary share his ideas and techniques which have been modified to market in today’s fast-moving world.

Regardless of what path you choose for your office, always remember that the patient is there because of you. They believe in you, they trust you and they put their fears and worries aside, because they know that you are the BEST dentist for them. Take it personally, you deserve it!

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